Returning to ‘’normal’’ work environments after Covid: how to deal with anxiety.

by Oct 27, 2021

It’s been well over a year since Australia’s borders have been strictly closed, and the toughest restrictions are being implemented at the first sign of Covid case spikes. The various “Covid-zero” strategies have proven to be incredibly effective, but as the rest of the world slowly goes back to normal, Australia remains cautious. Travel restrictions aren’t likely to be lifted anytime soon, and as we’ve witnessed with the latest state-wide lockdowns, we’re not completely through with lockdowns just yet. 

Fortunately, vaccination rollouts are hinting that we’re nearing the end of the tunnel. However, survey data shows that not everyone is as excited as we “should” be about going back to the way things were pre-2020. 

A research program led by a team from the Behavioural Science and Health Research Department at University College London has found some interesting data. It turns out that in the UK, as many as one-third of people enjoyed lockdown! 

And that’s not all. In preparing for the easing of restrictions, psychologists are calling attention to the possibility that people might feel anxious about returning to work or school.

So what is it that you should know about returning to a “normal” work (or university) environment after Covid? And how can you deal with the possible anxiety? Read on to find out.


Understanding the problem

The first step to overcoming your anxiety about returning to uni or work is to understand the possible causes of your negative feelings. While it may be easy to assume that the source of such anxiety comes from health-related fears, it’s essential to understand that that’s not always the issue.

Yes, some people will be worried about catching Covid when returning to an office or classroom where they’ll be spending considerable amounts of time with colleagues (or even strangers). But it’s not the only possible source of anxiety.

For some, the reason why the end of lockdown seems scary or overwhelming lies in the fact that they feel uncomfortable in social situations. For others, it’s the disruption of their routine that’s making them feel worried. 

Some may even be mistaking their self-sabotaging tendencies for anxiety. These individuals might think they don’t want to go back to work because of Covid when they’re actually afraid of leaving their comfort zone.

So, before you start to address your post-Covid anxiety, try to work on understanding it as fully as it is possible. Know that this may not be a process you can fully complete on your own. It may require the help of a confidante or even counselling. 

But, the fact that it’s not simple shouldn’t deter you from doing the work. On the contrary – get to the root cause of your anxiety, and you’ll be much better equipped for making your future career open to success.


Addressing post-Covid anxiety

Now that you understand why you’re feeling the way you are, it’s time to start working towards a healthier outlook on life back at school. To deal with your anxiety about going back to “normal,” give the following tips a try.

1. Come up with a routine

One of the best things you can do to stop yourself from feeling nervous about going back to uni is to create a routine. 

Because the return to “normal” still comes with a great deal of uncertainty – vaccination status, health concerns, routine disruptions. Therefore, it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by sudden changes. Fortunately, a solid routine can help regain a sense of control.

Think about all the things about lockdown that made you feel safe. 

  • Was it the knowledge that you wouldn’t have to take public transport? 
  • Or that you had control over who you saw or didn’t see?
  • Was it that you had an impact on the way your day was planned?

Now try to come up with a routine that will address these primary concerns. 

For example, if you have a commute, you could opt for a different transportation method, like biking to work. Or, if that’s not possible, why not choose to go in a bit early so that you can avoid rush hour?

2. Find things to get excited about

It is also possible that the reason you’re feeling unhappy about going back to “normal” doesn’t have as much to do with anxiety. Perhaps it’s a form of resistance. After all, if you felt comfortable working and studying from home, you might be feeling less than enthusiastic about going back to the daily grind.

In this case, it’s not a bad idea to try and find something to motivate you to go back to shared spaces.

If the possibility of social connection does nothing for you, think about other things you like about your uni/place of work. Maybe there’s a great coffee shop nearby you can visit on your breaks. Or you might have time to listen to your favourite podcast on your commute. 

Even a personal mini-project, like reorganising your work desk or updating your wardrobe, might help you feel better about welcoming this change in your life.

3. Remember the benefits of “normal”

OK, so doing all your work from home may have given you an extra 30 minutes of sleep every day. It may have even allowed you to wear sweatpants for more than a year. But are those benefits really unbeatable?

If you’re dealing with worry over going back to the office, try to think about all the benefits you get by going back to shared spaces.

For example, having an office to go to every day could help you achieve a better work-life balance than working from home. Or, going to lectures may allow you to understand the study materials better than when following from your laptop. Even the simple fact that you’ll be back in the same room with fellow students and coworkers could help you perform better.

4. Don’t forget the importance of self-care

If you’re feeling anxious about returning to school, it may not be a bad idea to step up your self-care routine.

It is known that experiencing anxiety comes with a series of health consequences. These can include depression, the inability to concentrate, trouble breathing, stomach issues, high blood pressure, and irregular sleep cycles. With all this in mind, it’s essential to take as good care of yourself as possible.

Find ways to de-stress. Try eating a healthy diet. Get plenty of sleep. Do some exercise or take a walk outside. These are all great ways to combat the detrimental health effects of anxiety.

Of course, you may have tried all of these and are still feeling overwhelmed. If that’s the case, you should definitely reach out and get assistance. At UTS, you have access to free and confidential counselling services.


Final thoughts

Whether you’re going back to university or entering the job market, it’s safe to say that you’re looking at some pretty big changes to how things were a few years ago.

But don’t let that take away from all the wonderful things that are bound to happen.

Yes, going back to “normal” can feel overwhelming. Still, if you take the time to understand the cause of your anxiety, as well as to find ways to manage it, you’re in for a great time. Guaranteed.


Featured image courtesy of Depositphotos

Natasha Lane

Natasha Lane

Natasha is a lady of a keyboard and one huge geek. She has a rich history of working in the branding, small business, and career growth related fields, so she is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge all around the web. To see what Natasha is up to next, check out her Twitter Dashboard.